Insights from Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong

Insights from Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong

In this video, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shares political and economic views on many subjects: US-Asia trade, the rise of China, Southeast Asia and Singaporean perspectives, ASEAN integration… Interviewed by J. Stapleton Roy of the Woodrow Wilson Center, he presents insightful analysis on Singapore, Asia and the world.

Key economic and political insights from PM Lee Hsien Loong

Lee Hsien Loong’s views on America, China and ASEAN

  • PM Lee came in the US to work towards the agreement of the Trans-Pacific Partnership – TPP – with several countries in the Asia-Pacific region between the US, Japan, Korea, Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and other countries Asia-Pacific countries.
  • The rise of China is changing the dynamics in Asia and in the world, exacerbating tensions with its neighbors.
  • PM Lee hopes toward the continuation of American engagement in Asia.
  • Asian countries becoming stronger generates more frictions, but also more positive relations such as trade, between China and Japan, between China and ASEAN.
  • In the last 10 years, tensions have escalated because of the rise of nationalism in the Asian countries and their policies.
  • Southeast Asia will always be a group of different countries with different policies. Yet, ASEAN countries can take a common stand on certain issues, because they know that speaking together makes them stronger; but they will always do so in a peaceful and constructive manner.
  • Some tensions between China, Japan and Korea come from the re-opening of issues from WWII which were never completely dealt with between the former opponents.

Lee Hsien Loong’s answers to questions from the audience

  • Though it is not a mediator, Singapore will gladly help the China – Taiwan relations if needed.
  • Some big challenges of Singapore in the coming years will be:
    • its demographic decline, as there currently are only 1.2 children per woman. Incentives are being implemented but the problem is very difficult to tackle maintaining a little immigration to retain a Singaporean identity.
    • the double status of Singapore being a city and a nation. One main way to deal with this is to attract talent and stand out regionally.
  • The Chinese view of certain international conflicts is that they predate the implementation of international law, so they should be out of its consideration. Furthermore, some big countries can sometimes bend the laws, even though they generally need to respect most international laws to be globally admired and respected.
  • Shanghai is and will be an important financial center, but it may or may not become a regional financial center, such as Hong Kong or Singapore.
  • The Renminbi is not yet in a position to become a global currency and though the Euro has gained some traction, the US dollar is still the only international currency.
  • Even though human rights are not perceived the same as in the US, Southeast Asian nations do respect the welfare of people; they also need to maintain certain political agenda to ensure stability.
  • China could study and use the Singaporean political and economic example as a laboratory for their much larger problems.
  • Problems are never solved forever: when you solve one, new problems arise.
  • The participation of Taiwan in the TPP will depend on China, as other countries in the TPP need to manage their relations with China.
  • Singapore attracts entrepreneurs by attracting talent. To do so, they create an environment that is comfortable and stimulating to entrepreneurs and foster an eco-system for tech start-ups in Singapore.
  • China should not write-off America as a country in decline: the US is still resilient and resourceful.

Video published in June 2014 by the US Council on Foreign relations

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